The line to be sung is based on the way the same line is sung in the song Stagger Lee” with lyrics by Lloyd Price …for those of us old enough to remember.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with the story, however.
AUTUMN LEAVES by Pepe K.
“The wind was brisk … and the sky was blue… and the leaves came tumblin’ down.”
It was a Saturday afternoon in November in Acme Acres and Plucky Duck was raking the hillside around Shirley’s house. Even though it was chilly outside, Plucky was sweating under his winter coat as he pulled the fallen foliage into piles. The heavy scent of the red and yellow leaves permeated everything.
“Hey! How come I hafta use this thing?” he called, grasping and sweeping with a rake that was taller than he was.
Shirley the Loon didn’t immediately answer, as she stood amidst the billowing leaves that her roaring electric leaf-blower was kicking up.
“Hey Shirl! Can you hear me?” the duck yelled, “Why do I have to drag this rake around while you get the easy way of doin’ it?”
Again, the blonde loon seemed deafened by the leaf-blower and stood smiling as she cleaned a path leading away from her parent’s tall Victorian home. Rather than continuing to yell, Plucky took the moment to admire Shirley’s beauty. Although she also wore a thick winter coat, her short tweed skirt and knee-high suede boots gave the duck plenty to smile at. Shirley shifted the blower’s nozzle sideways over her feet, the draft up her skirt momentarily providing Plucky with an eyeful. –Then she turned off the loud machine.
“I can totally hear you, Plucky” she said half-turning to smile at him with wide bright eyes. “Um like, yer using it cause I asked ya to. The rake does the moving of the leaves and junk, and the blower is for cleaning up the rest, have ya seen it?”
“Yeah, I see it” the duck drooled, popping out his eyeballs to trace her figure in the air.
Shirley smirked at him and grabbed his floating eyeballs and put them in her coat pocket.
“Hey! No fair! Give those back!” shouted Plucky, blindly waving his arms.
Shirley chuckled as she walked over and put his eyes back on him.
“Bag it ya perv”, she giggled, “You’ve got leaves to rake.”
The duck rubbed his eyes, but his pupils were nowhere to be seen. Shirley grabbed his head and shook it till his black pupils rattled and rolled like marbles into their correct positions.
“Okay, thanks” he said self-consciously with a smile. “Um, can I have a piece of the gum in yer pocket?”
Shirley laughed, “Oh yeah, Like you were rilly blinded to the max, ah’m sure! Here, scarf out. It’s my fave – Fruit Stripe Gum.”
As the loon opened the tiny package, Yipes (the multi-colored zebra) leaped out of it!
“It tickles your tongue!” giggled the goony zebra, “It’s fun!”
“It won’t tickle my tongue, Zebra!” Shirley said flatly as she zapped his hindquarters with a bolt of lightning, sending him hopping away holding his singed bottom.
“Barf me out, that jel jumps out every time I open a new pack of gum” grumbled Shirley.
“Heh, once yer trademarked, ya gotta keep the sponsors happy” Plucky remarked carelessly as he chewed his stick of gum. “By the way… what’s this surprise you promised me?”
“Oh, like let’s finish raking and then you’ll see” the pretty fowl told him, rolling her eyes innocently with a toss of her blonde curls.
“The sun was high… and the land was golden… and the leaves came tumblin’ down.”
Plucky had created a huge pile of leaves by raking them over a small rise on the hillside. Shirley had cleaned and cleared her rock garden with the leaf-blower. Her brass sundial shone in the afternoon sun and its shadow pointed to a little after 3 o’clock. Onto the green ivy and ferns, she swept the leaves to protect the plants from winter.
The pure colors of red, orange, yellow and gold spangled the green lawn –
her neighbor’s lawn, that is. She watched Plucky sneak the smaller leaf-piles off their property and snickered at his ingenuity at getting rid of them. Although she’d never admit it, she’d grown to appreciate his spirited ways and knew that it would always be a part of him. As time had gone by, he’d mellowed on her and she’d mellowed on him. The fact that they hadn’t broken up in the last couple of years reminded her that their love was becoming stronger and more lasting. Shirley smiled as Plucky swept some leaves under the grass like he was sweeping dust under a carpet.
Plucky was feeling overheated and leaned on his rake. He watched Shirley busily blowing the leaves off the driveway and thought again for a moment that he’d wound up with the short end of the stick by getting stuck with raking. Still, he didn’t mind sweating a little for Shirley. He knew how much of a lucky duck he was to have her. Despite all his past transgressions, she still loved him – and he loved her for it.
Shirley was absent-mindedly humming as she worked. No matter what she hummed, Plucky had never been able to figure out what song was on her mind. He swept the last vestige of his leaves over into the big pile and walked over to join her. She was still happily intent on her work as he came to stand next to her. The noise of the leaf-blower ‘s motor nearly drowned out her song and the sound of the machine echoed off the side of the tall old house. Plucky leaned on his rake and wiped his sweating brow and she finally looked up at him with a smile. Shirley turned off the leaf-blower and the wonderful silent sounds of nature returned, the gentle wind rustling in the trees.
“What’s that you’re humming? I can never tell,” he asked.
“Oh, it’s kind of a song my grandma taught me when I was little”, she said remembering, “Like a lil nursery song that she used to play on the piano. I always sing it to myself when I’m gardening, specially this time of year.
It’s about Autumn, ya know – and like how things change.”
Shirley closed her eyes and took a deep refreshing breath of air.
“Mmmm! Isn’t it like way awesome today? The leaves are so pretty an’ perfect! “Lookit this one!” the loon said holding up the reddest leaf Plucky had ever seen, “It’s from a Japanese Maple – OH! And lookit this!”
Bending over, Shirley swept a few soggy golden leaves aside to reveal a group of pure ghostly-white toadstools, their delicate fan-like undersides perfectly-formed like the crisp edges of a sheaf of paper.
“Well will ya look at that” Plucky agreed.
“Ya see? It’s like ‘Life is renewing itself’ er sum junk!” Shirley beamed as she went into one of her moments of over-enthusiasm, “I mean like – Life doesn’t die totally. New things grow in the shadow of decay an junk. – different kinds of things –“
“Like those things?” Plucky asked as he kicked over another patch of brown leaves, revealing a ring of pinkish-red mushrooms that were so colorful and oddly shaped that they seemed almost artificial.
“Oh cool!” Shirley chirped, crouching to look at them, ”This fungus cranks totally!”
Plucky couldn’t resist snickering, but he kept smiling at her.
“Oh man… have I gone on?” Shirley asked as she stood up. “Like listen ta me – “Crankin’ fungus!”
This time they both laughed at her zeal.
“So what’s this song like?” he asked her.
Shirley sighed and looked at him.
“Ya promise not to laugh?”
“Fer sure” the duck agreed smoothly.
“Like okay…” the loon said composing herself as she walked over to stand by the sundial.
Shirley simply looked at him and began to sing in a clear unwavering voice:
“Come little leaves,” said the wind one day,
“Over the meadow with me and play,
Put on your dresses of red and gold,
For the Summer is o’er and the days grow cold.”
Dancing and whirling the little leaves went,
Winter had called them and they were content,
Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds –
The snow laid a blanket right over their heads.”
The simple but beautiful melody made Plucky smile and he clapped quietly as Shirley blushed and shrugged. His smile grew into a grin and then into genuine chuckles.
“That’s nice. It’s very cute,” he said.
“It like, used to make me cry“ she admitted, “I felt sad fer the leaves cause the Wind tricked them into going away. Kinda like they died – but they didn’t.”
“Well it is called ‘Fall, isn’t it?” Plucky said matter-of-factly.
“Wull, to me it’s like… about growing up and things changing fur the better, and junk. I mean, like growing up isn’t as bad as we thought when we were in grade school.”
“We’re only twenty-one, Shirl. Don’t put us in the Old Toons’ Home just yet” Plucky reminded her. “Maybe we’re growing up too fast, I dunno,” he said thoughtfully.
“Ya mean like, in History class?” she asked.
Plucky nodded and said, “You always used to talk about yer ‘past lives’, and now – we’re really living them! I’ve inhabited so many hosts, I’m beginning to feel like they were my own ‘past lives’.”
Shirley sat on the wrought iron park bench next to her sundial, nodding.
“Yeah, it can be cosmically confusing, fer sure. But look at all we’ve learned – and the awesome sights we’ve seen! Things nobody’s ever witnessed before” the loon reminded him as she patted the bench for him to sit down on. “…I think we’ve changed for the better, don’t you?”
Plucky sat next to her and finally said, “Yeah…I guess so. It sure has made me more aware of other people.”
Plucky squeezed her hand in his and they smiled at each other a moment – then his smirk grew into a maniacal grin.
“But I’m not all grown up yet!” he hooted, making a saucy face.
He pinched her tail feathers and ran away - right onto the rake he’d put down! He stepped on the edges of the tines and the handle came up to hit him smack in the teeth! As he dizzily wobbled on his feet with stars spinning around his head, Shirley playfully attacked him with the leaf-blower! Turning the switch to “Gale Force”, she gleefully blasted him in the face, blowing his feathers all straight up on his head!
“Ha ha! Ya look like Don King!” she laughed, rolling on the ground.
Plucky rebounded quickly and came stalking stiffly after her with outstretched arms.
“Rrrrrruuuuunhhhh! Wo-man!” he grunted like Frankenstein’s monster.
Shirley couldn’t stop laughing as he picked her up bodily and lurched off, carrying her to the hill above the big pile of leaves they’d made. Plucky stopped, raised the laughing loon over his head and then tossed her down into the mountain of yellow and gold. FOOMPH!
Shirley was still giggling as Plucky beat his chest and howled like Tarzan, just before he jumped into the pile with her. They swam in the leaves, hid in the leaves and threw the leaves at each other joyfully. Plucky finally grabbed Shirley around the waist and kissed her.
“Mmmm! Wo-man! Friend! Good!” he continued like the Monster as red hearts twirled around them both. In the midst of their fowl laughter and merriment, a woman’s voice caught them by surprise.
“Shirley? Oh there you are!” called Shirley’s mother from the driveway, “We’re going Christmas shopping at the mall. You two wanna go?”
“Glad to see you’re having fun”, said Shirley’s father, ”Nice moves, Tarzan!” he remarked to Plucky.
Shirley and Plucky stood grinning sheepishly in the leaves.
“Thanks Mister McLoon”, the duck chuckled, “But I think we gotta finish what we started.”
“That’s okay, dear. You can come along with us,” Mrs. McLoon said kindly.
“ Naw that’s okay, Mom. Plucky’s right. We totally messed up the leaves”, Shirley agreed.
Mister McLoon smirked a tiny bit but said; “Okay then…we’ll see ya later.”
After waving goodbye to her parents’ car, Plucky turned to Shirley with a scowl.
“What do ya mean, ‘we gotta clean up the leaves?’ We spent all afternoon doing that!”
“Like, what do you mean – what do I mean? It was totally your idea. You said it.”
“Oh… yeah …Ya mean I hafta rake it all over again?!”
“Nuh-uh”, Shirley said as serenely as an angel, “I’ll do it.”
The telepathic loon took a deep breath and closed her eyes, summoning her powers.
As Plucky watched, she floated up into the air over him silently. She spread her arms apart, then brought her fingertips together, forming the sign of ‘One’. Shirley spread her arms and then began small sweeping movements with her feathery fingers.
All the loose leaves on the entire property began to move, swishing and slithering together into a single mass before Plucky’s astounded eyes. The leaves floated together and seemed to curl up into a smaller and smaller shape. At last, all that was left became a single wooden log. As Shirley’s fingertip guided it, it dropped onto the very top of the family’s woodpile. Plucky glared at her as she relaxed once again.
“You mean you could have done ALL this WITHOUT my help any time you wanted too?!” he demanded.
“Nope”, she said simply, “Only when it was funny.”
Plucky smacked his forehead with his palm for not having seen that one coming.
“Did Doc teach ya that one?” he asked.
“Wull, maybe a little, but like Hey - give me some credit” she answered.
Plucky sagged and asked “So did I do all that work fer nuthin’?”
“Like, of course – NOT!” Shirley smiled, taking him by the arm, “Ya still get yer surprise. C’mon!”
Plucky could only grin as she whisked him into the house and up the staircase to the third floor and into her room. Plucky was used to Shirley’s exotic room, the harem-like drapery on the walls and the East Indian pillows were very romantic - but he’d never gotten used to her burning incense sticks that plunged his nostrils into a heavy cornucopia of smells.
“ACHOOO!!” sneezed Plucky, sending his duckbill flying into the wall – and blowing out all the incense sticks in the process. “Well that’s one way to deal with my allergy” his beak remarked as he picked it back up and put it back on.
“So?” he asked excitedly, “Where’s the surprise? Surprise? Huh-huh? Where? Gimme-gimme!”
Shirley walked across the room and explained to him “Wull…ya know how we were like talking about how things change an’ growing up and junk?”
Plucky nodded, greedily expecting a gift-wrapped present – but he was puzzled when he didn’t get one.
Shirley smiled at him and put a hand behind her back. She relaxed and shrugged her shoulders and then turned to face away from him. Then she reached her hand under one side of her cowled pink sweater on her shoulder. Plucky was more puzzled as she pushed her hand halfway down the inside of her sleeve. The duck’s head tilted sideways quizzically as she bent further forward, doing more that he could not see.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Oh, just a lil trick Fifi showed me” she said relaxing again carelessly.
The loon then pushed her arm up her opposite sleeve from the bottom, reaching up inside her blouse to her shoulder – and then pulled it out again. Something that she’d hooked with her finger came out as well and with a snap- it was in her hand.
Plucky stared for a long moment as Shirley casually tossed her bra onto her nightstand. She smiled at him over her shoulder again. Plucky remained frozen in expectation. Still facing away from him, she quickly grasped her collar and pulled her sweater off over her head.
Plucky’s jaw dropped to the floor along with yards of his tongue… but then he slowly closed his beak. His loving smile became the same as the one that was on Shirley’s lips. He stared in wonder at her bare back.
From the nape of her neck to her tail feathers, Shirley now wore the eye boggling black and white checkerboard-patterned plumage of an adult Loon. What began as thin black stripes on her shoulders became solid ebony feathers on her upper arms, then became black with white squares across her shapely back. The striking effect was dramatic!
The beautiful loon looked over her shoulder, her cheeks blushing, just a little.
Her blonde curls covered one blue eye – while the other gazed warmly at the duck through her long eyelashes, in an unforgettable moment of stillness.
“The night was clear….and the Moon was yellow… and the leaves came tumblin’ down.”
Season’s Greetings To All from Pepe K.